Just for fun, I thought I would write about the original Madison Avenue and why that moniker is still synonymous with advertising. This is from my memory and some research, but others, who may be older and more schooled can correct me and add to the list.
Up until the sixties and early seventies, the list of ad agencies which were actually on or near Madison Avenue was enormous. Here is a partial list of ad agencies from both memory and research as being on Madison Avenue, all between about 38th Street to 60th Street, in no particular order: BBD&O (it had an ampersand then); Dancer, FitzGerald, Sample and Compton (two huge agencies merged together to form Saatchi & Saatchi); Gumbinner-North; Y&R; Wunderman Ricotta & Kline (not yet merged with Y&R), Lennon & Newall; D’Arcy Masius McManus (forerunner of DMB&B); Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein; Ted Bates; Benton & Bowles; Cunningham & Walsh and a whole bunch of other smaller agencies, most of which are long merged or forgotten. Ogilvy & Mather was on 48th Street just off Madison. (How’s all this for a trip down memory lane! If you can think of other major agencies that were once on Madison Avenue, let me know.)
The agencies I just listed were huge, most in the top ten or twenty in the country. There were many others, all located between Fifth Avenue and Lexington Avenue (Doyle, Dane Bernbach was daring by being in a building just west of Fifth Avenue in a building which ran between 42nd and 43rd), in the upper thirties to the low sixties. McCann was on Lexington in the low forties, for ages. But Madison Avenue was the epicenter. If you were in advertising, most ad agencies just had to be on or near that fabled street.
Today, there is just DDB, Rapp, TBWA/Chiat Day, (all part of Omnicom which is headquartered on Madison Avenue), Strawberry Frog and Havas Health. That’s it for traditional agencies on Madison. Even Y&R moved west just this year. Wow.
It is interesting how things have changed. In researching this post, I found a comment that when, in the 1950’s, a then major agency, Erwin Wasey, moved from Madison Avenue to Third Avenue it was considered “daring”. That really all changed when Ted Bates, then a powerhouse agency (Best known for creating the “Unique Selling Proposition” – USP.) moved from the east side to Broadway and 44th Street in the late sixties.
Then, in the late seventies when Geer Dubois, a small to mid-sized creative shop, moved from mid-town to lower Fifth Avenue, it was highly controversial; as I recall, it was heresy for them to have moved there. As a result, downtown space became synonymous with smaller boutiques. I remember when my partners and I started an agency in the late seventies and my creative partners felt we had to be in mid-town because they did not want to be thought of as a small, creative shop, even though that is exactly what we were. I think that attitude finally changed in the 1980’s when Saatchi & Saatchi moved down to Hudson Street. That kind of opened the flood gates for ad agencies to locate wherever they wanted to be.
Of course, today there are agencies everywhere, some are down in the financial district. Ogilvy is way west on Eleventh Avenue and there are several successful agencies in Brooklyn.
But, still, the term Madison Avenue means advertising.